Here’s another excerpt from my weekly column in The Sun Times…enjoy!
While our rural community provides relative safety from severe crime and the tragedies of war, daily living presents a variety of physical challenges that can have significant, long-term, or even life-threatening consequences. Simple tasks such as shoveling the driveway, chopping wood, cleaning eave troughs, or even just walking down an icy sidewalk challenge your balance, stability, muscular strength, and cardiovascular health. These activities may seem trivial, but many of us are ill-prepared for the elements of risk involved or the physical exertion required and we experience injury as a result.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports over 1.5 million Americans seek emergency room care each year due to simple slip, trip, and fall injuries.
Encountering these chance accidents may seem out of our control, but chance or negligence is not solely to blame for Americans vulnerability to slip and fall accidents. With thirty states having an obesity rate greater than or equal to 25%, and an average of 50% of Americans meeting insufficient criteria for physical activity in 2007, we have made ourselves more vulnerable to simple injuries by being negligent of our level of physical fitness.
Being physically inactive and overweight often correlates with poor cardiovascular health, weak muscles, inadequate balance, and reduced coordination, each of which increases risk not only for slipping and falling but also potential for increased severity of injury. And although much of our health care philosophy relies upon rehabilitation from injury as a solution, health care professionals recommend exercise prescription, including cardiovascular exercise and resistance training, as a preventative strategy to diminish risk of injury and provide a mechanism for losing weight.
Including functional movements in your resistance training routine is one component of an injury prevention program. The purpose of functional movement is to mimic real-world scenarios in a controlled environment, thereby improving your ability to perform the simple activities of everyday life. Learning proper technique for performing movements such as squatting, balancing, and lifting objects from the floor to overhead promotes proper joint mechanics that protect knees, shoulders, hips, and lower back from fluke injuries. Functional training also involves moving forward, backward, and sideways to place additional demand on core muscles and improve neuromuscular innervation.
While your ability to balance on one foot probably isn’t the difference between life and death, it could mean the difference between long-term hospitalization, a series of physical therapy, or an aspirin and some ice. When starting a resistance training program, the load of resistance, sets, and repetitions should be chosen according to your current physical ability level. Add resistance progressively and be patient with yourself when adding resistance. This will prevent you from overloading joints and connective tissue during exercise. Begin with higher reps and low weight focusing on proper technique until you master the movement itself. Keep in mind that you should always consult your physician before starting an exercise program.
2007 CDC U.S. Physical Activity Statistics